December 26, 2003


Canada Government To Monitor BSE Situation


The Canadian government will continue to monitor the bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease in the U.S. before making any decisions to shut the Canadian border to U.S. beef imports.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced late Tuesday that a single Holstein was found on a farm in Washington. Preliminary tests for BSE came back positive on Dec. 9. A second test administered also came back positive.


Canada's Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister, Bob Speller, announced late Tuesday in a news release that Canada's singular focus is the protection of the health and safety of Canadians. He said that his department will be working with Health Canada and that any decisions on the importation of U.S. beef products will be guided by international standards.


"This is a very regrettable event for an industry which has been under severe stress and strain during the past many months - on both sides of the border. My officials and I will be working closely with producers and industry stakeholders in the days ahead," Speller said.


He noted that Canadian officials are also working cooperatively with their American counterparts and are offering them the expertise that Canada has gained during the last several months.


"The government of Canada is of the view that solutions to dealing with BSE must continue to involve a North American approach," Speller said.


"Our every action will be taken to provide maximum protection for public health and the security of Canadians, on the basis of science and the best available expertise," he said.


While countries such as Australia, Singapore and Japan have shut down their borders to U.S. beef imports, the Canadian government has thus far not shut its border to U.S. beef. Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials said late Tuesday that they will continue to monitor the situation and are waiting for the results of the final test that was sent to Britain for analysis. The final test results are expected back within days.


"It's appropriate we all take a measured response but that we take it based on all known facts," said Brian Evans, chief veterinary officer with the CFIA, in a news conference late Tuesday.


The discovery of a single cow in Alberta on May 20, 2003, devastated the Canadian beef industry, costing beef exporters alone more than C$1.9 billion.


The Canadian Cattlemen's Association was sympathetic to the plight of U.S. cattle farmers with regard to Tuesday's USDA announcement. The CCA noted that the diagnosis is a presumptive positive only. Final test results will be available within the next few days.


"The situation Canada has experienced over the past few months has been extremely difficult. Our well wishes go out to U.S. cattle producers. It's too soon to tell what impact today's announcement will have on the situation in North America," said Cindy McCreath, Communications Manager with the CCA, in a news release.


The CCA emphasized the safety of North American beef products, stating that both Canada and the U.S. have taken the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their beef products. They also pointed out that all necessary precautions have also been taken to ensure this disease does not spread.